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Orchards in English Pleasure Gardens

The orchard in the Middle Ages was practically indistinguishable from the garden or pleasure garden. The orchard in those days contained, besides a variety of fruit trees, herbs for medicinal and culinary purposes and a few flowers, also fountains, seats, and the other architectural features of the pleasure garden. Many fruit trees are said to have been imported from France, especially in the thirteenth century, and hence were known by French names. Among the varieties of pears were the rule or regul, the passe-pucelle, and the caloel or caillou. Pearmain and costard apples were probably also of French origin. Cherries had been reintroduced at the time of the Norman Conquest.

Peaches, medlars, quinces, and chestnuts were commonly cultivated and imported from abroad. Grafting was a well understood craft. Scions often or twelve distinct varieties of trees were grown upon an oak stock. Vines were grafted on cherries and plums on vines. If a large number of herbs were cultivated, they were sometimes set apart in an herbary.

But many flowers which are now considered purely ornamental were then supposed to have healing properties, or to be fit ingredients for sauces and savouries; so the herbary was not strictly devoted to the plants we should consider as herbs. Besides the plants grown for medicinal and culinary purposes, were others intended to be distilled into love philters and perhaps poisons.


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